The Last Will Be First

“Everybody has won, and all must have prizes.” This is what the Dodo says to Alice after she and the other characters have run the Caucus-race in Lewis Carroll’s book, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. We laugh at the nonsense of this statement as we read the story, but of course this principle is practiced in many children’s sports leagues, where kids are given what are called “participation trophies” at the end of the season simply for playing in games. NFL linebacker James Harrison got media attention last month when he posted on social media that he would be sending back the participation trophies his two sons had recently received. He wrote on Instagram, “These trophies will be given back until they EARN a real trophy. I’m sorry I’m not sorry for believing that everything in life should be earned and I’m not about to raise two boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best.”

When I heard about it, I admit that I make a few jokes about “participation trophies” and how lame it is to reward people for basically nothing. I mean, rewards and recognition are for people who earn them, right? Isn’t it unfair to the team that actually wins the championship to hand out trophies to any kid who plays, no matter how good he or she is?

Then I happened to read Matthew 20—and I realized that I needed to rethink some things. The main point of the parable in Matthew 20:1-16 is this: in the kingdom of God, the under-achievers who don’t measure up (and whom nobody wants) are put on the same pedestal as those who excel and “go all the way.” This is because the kingdom of God operates on the principle of grace, not merit and entitlement. Let me summarize the parable to explain what I mean. (I highly recommend you go and read Matthew 20:1-16 before moving on to the next paragraph.)

Jesus’ story is about a man who owns a vineyard, and goes out early in the morning (about 6 AM) to the marketplace to hire workers to harvest in his fields. He finds some workers and makes an agreement with them: if they will work in his vineyard all day (from 6 AM to 6 PM), he will pay them a “denarius”, which was a fair payment for a full day’s work.

So the laborers agree, and head out to work. So far, so good. But a few hours later, around 9 AM, the landowner goes back out to the marketplace and sees more workers who haven’t been hired yet. So he offers them a job, too, only this time he doesn’t tell them exactly how much he will pay them, but only says “whatever is right I will give you.” They go out and work alongside those who have been there since the sun came up.

But the landowner is not finished. He goes out again at noon, and again at 3 PM, and both times he finds people looking for jobs in the marketplace. The landowner does the same thing he did at 9 AM—he sends them out to work in his vineyard, and promises them that “whatever is right I will give you.”

Amazingly, the landowner goes out again at 5 PM—just one hour before quitting time—and finds some laborers standing around. He says to them, “Why do you stand here idle all day?” And they respond, “Because no one has hired us.” So the landowner sends them into his vineyard also, but doesn’t tell them how much they will be paid. One hour later, at quitting time, he calls everybody up to receive their pay.

He pays them in groups—first, the late hires (those who came in at 5 PM) are paid, and incredibly they are paid a full denarius. Then the 3 PM workers are paid, and the 12 noon workers, and the 9 AM workers, and finally the people who worked the entire 12-hour day, from 6 AM to 6 PM. These workers, the “elite” ones who worked harder and better than the rest, thought that surely they would be paid more. But to their surprise, they are given a denarius just like everybody else. And they are none too pleased.

They complain and say to the landowner, “These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.” So the landowner turns to one of them and says, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?” 

And with that, Jesus concludes his story—a story designed to teach us what “the kingdom of heaven is like”—and drops this bomb: “So the last will be first, and the first last.”

Notice two things about this story. First, notice that the kingdom of God operates on the principle of grace, not merit and entitlement. Clearly, some have worked harder than others. And the story suggests that the last workers not only didn’t work as hard as the rest, but that they couldn’t. The workers who are hired at 5 PM didn’t just show up in the marketplace too late to get a job. When they are asked why they aren’t working, their response is that “no one has hired us.” In other words, they got passed over because they were not as desirable as the others. They are like the kids who get picked last in gym class. They are rejects. But the landowner—who represents God in the parable—graciously gives them an opportunity to earn a living anyway. So the kingdom of God is not only for the strong and elite people who live moral lives and serve God in amazing and powerful ways. It is also—and especially—for the weak people who can only accomplish a fraction of what others can. The rejects are let into the kingdom just like the strong, and once they are in, they are not told to get out of the way while the important people do all of the important stuff. They are “made equal.” Scandalous! The last will be first, as Jesus said.

Second, notice that the ones who complain about the landowner’s generosity are not the heroes of the story. The elite workers actually do not understand the way the kingdom of God works. They are rebuked by the landowner! They think they are special, that they should be the exclusive recipients of the highest privileges in the kingdom of God. But they are wrong. They scoff at the rejected workers’ participation trophies, and get scolded in front of everybody else. How the tables have turned! As readers we wonder, “What happens to them? Do they make it into the kingdom.” We don’t know for sure, but we do know that Jesus says “the first [will be] last.” And what makes them last is not the fact that they are strong and able-bodied, but because they objected to the landowner’s kindness to weak and undesirable people. 

The kingdom of God operates on the principle of grace, not merit and entitlement. This is because in reality, there are no strong people. All are equally undeserving of the kingdom. All need to be given a place in the kingdom, because none have earned it. Only by faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ can we enter in at all. We are all under-achievers and rejects, and if we enter the kingdom of God at all, it must be by grace. Praise God for that grace!

Salvation Is of the Lord

I am applying to be a church planter with the Acts 29 network. The application process is pretty thorough! I am currently working on a 22-question Theological and Pastoral Questionnaire. Question 6 asks, “What is our role in saving the lost, and what is God’s role?” This was my answer:

God’s role is to save them, and our role is to be faithful agents of his salvation. God chooses a people before the creation of the world, sends his Son as a propitiation for their sin, fulfills the righteous requirements of the law in him, raises him from the dead, calls his elect to himself, causes them to be born again by the Spirit, sends a messenger to bring the good news to them, gives them the gift of faith in response to the proclamation of the gospel, protects them so that they persevere to the end, raises them on the last day, and gives them an inheritance in his kingdom. Our role is to faithfully pray for conversion, proclaim the gospel in the most compelling and accurate way possible, live lives that are worthy of the gospel (so that we do not contradict our words with our actions), trust God to raise sinners from the dead, and never forget that salvation is not of man but of God.

It Is God Who Works in Me

Some people are tempted to turn the gospel of Christ into a license for law-breaking.  In Romans 6:1-2 (ESV), Paul responded to those who said his message of grace encouraged people to sin: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” Some might use the message of Christ’s free pardon as an excuse to sin it up, Paul says, but don’t blame that on me. Such a view is utterly inconsistent with the gospel message, and those who say it isn’t simply haven’t understood what Christ came to free us from.

But others–like myself–are tempted in the other direction. My temptation is to turn God’s free gift of grace into a job opportunity. Now that I am forgiven of sin, I think, I am accepted into God’s family and free to earn favor from him by my works. This, too, misunderstands the gospel.

Here’s how it works. I imagine that God’s love for me in Christ fluctuates based on how well I am obeying him on any given day. So, if I have had a good day, I feel pretty secure in God’s love for me, but if I have had a bad one, I think that God is none too pleased and that if I am planning on coming to him in prayer, it had better not be with boldness or confidence or any such thing.

But that is simply not what the Bible teaches.  Paul says in Ephesians 3:13 that in Christ Jesus our Lord “we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.” Who gives me the right to approach God boldly and confidently? Christ does. What binds me to him, so that I enjoy this privilege? My faith in him. Access is granted through my great high priest, not my great accomplishments. Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Notice that the throne I’m approaching is the throne of grace, which is a much different thing than the throne of merit. To be sure, merit is required to grant me access to God, but it isn’t mine. It’s his. It is because of Christ’s righteousness that I can approach the throne of grace, where the Lord gives out (surprise!) things like mercy and grace. And to whom does he give these gifts? To those who have no need of them? No. He gives them to the needy, and right on time, too. We come to the throne of grace “that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

So I need to chill out on my attempts to earn grace from God. Grace, by definition, cannot be earned (Rom. 11:6). I don’t necessarily need to do less, but I need to think less about what I do. In other words, the answer to my problem—which is that I am supposing acceptance with God is dependent on my obedience to him rather than Christ’s obedience on my behalf—is to think less highly of the good works I am doing for the Lord. I need to remember that all my acts of obedience are enabled by the grace of God, and that instead of gaining me more and more favor from God they actually put me further into his debt, because every act of obedience is made possible by his grace.

Consider Titus 2:11-14: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”

It is the grace of God that trains me to renounce ungodliness and to live a godly life. It is God who works in me that which is pleasing in his sight (Heb. 13:21), who fulfills every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power (2 Thess. 1:11), who makes me increase in love for all people (1 Thess. 3:12), who causes me to please him by bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of him (Col. 1:10), who is at work in me both to will and to work for his good pleasure (Php. 2:13), who does more abundantly than all that I can ask or think (Eph. 3:20), who both justifies and sanctifies me (Gal. 3:2-3), who transforms me into the glorious image of Christ as I look upon him in worship (2 Cor. 3:18), and who will sustain me to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:8).

May we rest in all that Christ has accomplished to give us favor with God; may we remember that our good works are fueled by grace; and may we approach the throne of God’s grace boldly and confidently through our faith in Christ. O Lord, turn our eyes away from ourselves and help us to fix them on Christ instead, who is the author and perfecter of our salvation.

What Is the Mission of the Church?

The mission of the people of God is to be a blessing to others.  When God chose Abram out of all the people of the earth, he said, “I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing” (Gen. 12:2 [ESV]).  God didn’t bless Abram so that he could hoard all the blessing to himself and pat himself on the back for being so awesome.  His privilege came with responsibility.  His salvation required service.  He was blessed to be a blessing.  His mission was to spread the knowledge of God to all the earth, displaying the power and glory and goodness of God for all to see, so that the nations would put their faith in the one, true God for salvation from sin. This was his mission, and it’s ours as well.

God’s blessing reverses the devastating effects of the curse that sin has brought to the entire world.  It rolls back the consequences of the Fall.  When Adam and Eve sinned, they shattered the peace they had previously enjoyed with God, with one another, and with creation.  They had erected a wall between themselves and God, and they were cut off from the everlasting joy and peace and love that could only be found in him. But when God blesses a people, he graciously removes the obstacles of sin and death that separate humanity from him.  This is the blessing that God gave to Abram, which he was then supposed to mediate to the nations around him.

Christ made this blessing from God possible.  We read in Galatians 3:13-14 that “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.”  Christ rolled back the effects of the curse by bearing the sins of his people—the sins which keep us from enjoying God forever—in his body on the cross.  He absorbed the wrath of God against his people’s sin like a sponge.  He drank every last drop of God’s righteous judgment against his elect, so that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 5:1).  God blessed us in Christ by removing the obstacles of sin and death and giving us himself again.

Now we who have received Christ’s blessing (reconciliation with God) are called to mediate that blessing to those around us.  This means both spreading the knowledge of God everywhere we go by preaching and teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, and loving others in Christ’s name in very practical ways.  This means welcoming broken, weak, poor, messed-up people into our lives and sharing our good things with them—both the good news of the gospel and our material things. We must say with our mouths that Christ has come to rescue a people for God, to turn a bunch of rebellious, self-exalting, self-loving people into a kingdom of people who love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength and who love their neighbors as themselves.  But as we hold out Christ, and declare that he is able to transform in this way, we must also show with our actions that we who worship him have ourselves been transformed.  The world must see in us a people whose love for Christ manifests itself in love for our neighbor, particularly the weak and the poor.  As we have received blessing, we must bless others in word and in deed.

We have been blessed in Christ, not to hoard the blessing to ourselves, but to be a blessing to others.  The first step towards this is to repent of our past failures.  The next step is to ask God for guidance and wisdom, and to ask him to give us opportunities to be a blessing to others.  And then once those opportunities become available, we need to act on them.  We need to repent of our inward focus, and look outward to our communities.  How can we serve our neighbors for the glory of God?  Our privilege comes with responsibility.  Our salvation requires service.  We have been blessed to be a blessing.

One Body Through the Cross

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God’s people must not neglect to meet together for corporate worship, because when Jesus purchased the church with his blood, he bought for us the privilege of being together in him.

For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility . . . [so he] might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross. (Eph. 2:14, 16)

This is our story. . . .

There is a living God who created the heavens and the earth, who is the source of infinite joy. He rules as King over all creation. We have rebelled against him, have become his enemies, and a day of judgment is coming for us. But our God and King is also a Savior who came to earth to die for his enemies so they could be pardoned. God entered history and became a man, Jesus Christ, and was executed for the crimes of his enemies. After the King died to rescue his people, he was raised from the dead, victorious over sin and death. All who will lay down their rebellion and come to him in surrender to receive the free gift of forgiveness can go from being enemies destined for execution to being sons and daughters destined for eternal joy in the Kingdom of God.

After conquering death, the King returned to heaven and promised to return to gather his people to himself. In the meantime he has sent his Spirit to live in his people, and to be his power and his presence among them. So even though the full enjoyment of life with the King comes later, his people have the Spirit now to bring that fellowship with him into the present. Through the Holy Spirit, we experience the joy of Christ now and we know that more is coming. And what is coming is everlasting joy and delight in GOD HIMSELF in a new heavens and a new earth!

God is rescuing for himself a people—a people he will live with forever—from this present evil age. When we come together as a local church, we are anticipating the final ingathering of all of God’s people at the end of time. Our weekly corporate worship is a sneak peek of the joy that is to come. We are rehearsing for the new creation that’s coming, and showing the world that God has rescued a people for himself while inviting them to join us and enter the kingdom of God themselves.

Corporate worship is a recital. A recital is an event where musicians or dancers put on a demonstration for a crowd and say, “Look what all our hard work has produced. This is the reward of our labors.” The assembly of God’s people says, “Look at the transformed community that Christ’s sufferings have produced. This is the result and reward of his labors. We’re still a work-in-progress—we’re not what we will one day be—but God’s not finished with us yet. Come join us, and enjoy Christ with us!”

Don’t miss out on all that God is doing in and through his people. We need each other. And Christ paid the ultimate price to create this body. Don’t cut yourself off from it. You can’t have Christ without his body.

Chasing After Voices: A Parable

Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path. (Ps. 119:105)

Once upon a time, a man was plodding along on the pathway of obedience to God, holding in his hand a lamp—the Word of God—which shined forth just enough light to see the path under his feet and perhaps a few steps ahead of him.  All around him was darkness, except under the lamp.

Along came a second man, who said, “Where you going, brother?”  The first man said, “I’m following the Lord.  He bought me and saved me and so I’m going where he leads me.”

The second man said, “Well, why are you going THAT way? That’s not the way.  Come with me, and let’s follow the Lord together.”

About that time, the first man noticed that the second man was missing something.  “Where is your lamp?” the first man asked.

“Lamp?” the second man laughed.  “I don’t need one of those.  I just listen to the voices of the people calling out ahead of me, and I head in whatever direction the voices are coming from.  If I keep following those voices, eventually I’ll catch up to them.”

“But how do you know whether you’re on the right path without a LAMP?” the first man asked.  “How do you know if you’re going in the right direction without the Word of God to tell you where to go?”

The second man said, “I told you, I just follow the voices of the people in front of me.  If I hurry, I can catch up to them.”

“Yes,” said the first man, “but how do you know where the voices are coming from?  How do you know you want to be where they are?  How do you know where you’re headed without a LAMP?”

The second man furrowed his brow a bit, looked at the first man sideways, and walked off into the darkness, shaking his head.

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. (Pr. 14:12)

Justification by Faith in the Psalms

The Lord has been showing me how the doctrine of justification by faith is present throughout the book of Psalms.  Repeatedly, the psalmists identify the “righteous” as those who have taken refuge in the Lord, who place their trust and hope in him, who look to him for deliverance and cry out for mercy so that the Lord may not condemn them.  Even in the psalms where the author is championing his innocence and detailing his righteousness and faithfulness to the Lord, there is often a request for the Lord to redeem his life or to withhold condemnation, meaning that the authors are emphatically NOT asserting their perfection in keeping the law or appealing to God to give them favor that is rightfully theirs as “righteous” people.  Even the psalmists who say they have kept their hands clean recognize that they need to have their hearts cleansed.

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy,
and spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may exult in you.
For you bless the righteous, O Lord;
you cover him with favor as with a shield. (Ps. 5:11-12)

Notice how the “righteous” in this psalm are “all who take refuge in you”.  The Lord covers the righteous with favor because they take refuge in him.  The fact that they run to the Lord for mercy and refuge is the reason why they can be counted righteous.

Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.
Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous,
and shout for joy, all you upright in heart! (Ps. 32:10-11)

The one who trusts in the Lord is contrasted with the wicked.  The one who trusts in God and takes refuge in him is called “righteous” and “upright of heart”.

The Lord redeems the life of his servants;
none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned. (Ps. 34:22)

The ones who take refuge in the Lord have no fear of condemnation.  “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).  “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:18).

Oh, continue your steadfast love to those who know you,
and your righteousness to the upright of heart! (Ps. 36:10)

Those who know the Lord (in other words, they have been reconciled to him through repentance and faith) are considered “the upright of heart”.

The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord;
he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.
The Lord helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him. (Ps. 37:39-40)

Again, the “righteous” are counted as such precisely because they take refuge in the Lord.

The doctrine of justification by faith – the truth that men and women are counted as “good” and “righteous” before God not because of what they themselves have done, but because they trust in the power of Jesus Christ, the righteous One, to give them a righteous standing before God in spite of their sin and wickedness – is definitely present in the Psalms, and throughout the rest of the Old Testament.  That’s why Paul can say that the gospel was preached beforehand to Abraham (Gal. 2:8), because it has always been God’s way to justify his people (whether Jew or Gentile) by faith.  When Abraham believed the promise of God, his faith was counted to him as righteousness (Gen. 15:6).  Abraham trusted in the Lord, and therefore was considered righteous and upright in heart (Ps. 32:10-11).  And all who share the faith of Abraham, who are fully convinced that God is able to do what he has promised, will share in the righteousness of Christ.  “For our sake, he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).  Praise God for his gift of righteousness to those who humble themselves before him, and HIDE in him, taking refuge from the wrath of God in the mercy of God, which is made possible by and extended to us in Christ!

Lord, help me to hide myself in you!  And then, with the confidence that comes from knowing that you accept me in Christ, let me venture out from under your shelter once again to plead with the guilty to come to you for rest and pardon and forgiveness and mercy!

Spiritual Poverty and Future Perfection

Contrary to what the Joel Osteens of the world preach, the Christian faith is not about prosperity in this life, but about poverty. 

Jesus said so: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 5:3).  And in saying this he was merely echoing the Old Testament.  David wrote, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:18).  And through Isaiah God declared, “This is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word” (Is. 66:2).

What does it mean to be “poor in spirit”? At least this.  It means we realize how dark and depraved our hearts really are.  It means we see the goodness of God, and mourn over the blackness of our own souls in comparison.  It means we know how utterly right the commandments of God are for us, and are crushed over our own inability and lack of desire to keep them.  It means we have caught a glimpse of the glory of Jesus Christ, and had a small taste of the joy that is to be found in him—and then wept over our meager affections for him. It means we have developed a deep and holy hatred for sins like pride and selfishness, only to realize in horror that not only are they lurking in the hearts of everyone around us, but have their roots deep within us as well. 

How much easier it is for non-Christians to deal with their own spiritual poverty!  Those who live in darkness make it their business not to see, and so they do not have to bear the conscious weight of their lowliness.  “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed” (Jn. 3:20).  If you are easily burned by the sun, no problem, just stay in the shadows.  But those who no longer live in darkness, who through the miracle of the new birth have become children of light, no longer have this luxury.  “But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may clearly be seen that his works have been carried out in God” (Jn. 3:21).  We who belong to Christ are children of the day, and no longer belong in the darkness.

And this is painful, even though it is gloriously liberating.  It is painful because my works are seen clearly for what they are.  Some of those works, by the grace of God, are Spirit-empowered good works which bring both glory to God and joy to me.  But many of them are Spirit-grieving works of the flesh which bring sorrow to Christ and death to my soul.  They are many of the same works which have always been there, only now they burn under the bright light of an awakened conscience, and my spiritual bankruptcy is laid bare before my enlightened eyes.  I’m not poorer than I was—I’ve been given unsearchable riches in Christ, actually—but now I can see.  I see my poverty.  I see my depravity.  I see my need for Christ.

And because I see, the kingdom is mine.  Christ the Lord is near to brokenhearted people such as myself, and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  And in this blinding light, my spirit is mangled.  I look into my heart for righteousness, and I see but a few stale crumbs.  But then Jesus says this: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matt. 3:6).  Which means that there is a feast coming for this brokenhearted man!  A feast which I will be attending in sinless, spotless perfection, when Christ presents me and the rest of his church to himself without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.  And heaven will be mine.

How Are the People of God Made Holy?

As I was reading the Bible this morning, I was told in the Scriptures that I, as a child of God, have been made holy by God.  But how exactly am I made holy?, I thought to myself.  So rather than turn to a systematic theology textbook, I spent some time searching the Bible for the answer.

This is how the Scriptures say I am made holy:

  • Because God has called me to holiness (1 Th. 4:7; 2 Tim. 1:9; 1 Pet. 1:15)
  • By the word of God, which is truth (John 17:17; 15:3; Eph. 5:26)
  • Through faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 26:18; 15:9; 2 Th. 2:13)
  • Through repentance/confession (1 Jn. 1:9)
  • Through regeneration/new birth (Eph. 4:24)
  • According to God’s sovereign choice (election) before the world began (Eph. 1:4; Col. 3:12; 2 Tim. 1:9)
  • By the Holy Spirit (Rom. 15:16; 2 Th. 2:13)
  • By the presence of God within us (1 Cor. 3:17; Eph. 2:21)
  • By my virtue of being “in Christ” (1 Cor. 1:2; Heb. 2:11)
  • By the blood sacrifice of Jesus (Heb. 9:13-14; 10:10, 14, 29; 13:12; Titus 2:14; 1 Jn. 1:7; Rev. 7:14; Col. 1:22)

I have undoubtedly left some passages out (if for no other reason than because I limited my brief study to the New Testament).  But this is a good start.  I need to believe these truths.  I need to trust what God says about my holiness in Christ.  I am holy, because God has made me that way.  And now, by the power of the Spirit in me and in the confidence and security that comes from my identity in Christ, I must strive to be in practice what I am by decree of God: HOLY.  I am set apart to God; therefore, let me strive to set myself apart to God in my living.  “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).

The Inheritance of Christ

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11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:11-14)

When I read this passage this morning, I found myself asking, “What exactly is the inheritance that we have obtained in Christ, which the Holy Spirit is the guarantee of?”  After looking through the Scriptures, I found the following answers.

What shall we inherit?

  • The earth (Ps. 37:11; Mt. 5:5)
  • Eternal life (Mt. 19:29).  This is what Jesus says about eternal life: “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (Jn. 17:3).  So what we have inherited is God himself, and Jesus Christ who is the image of the invisible God, the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.
  • The kingdom (Mt. 25:34).
  • The promises of God (Heb. 6:12).  This includes:
    • “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (2 Cor. 6:16).
    • Eternal rest in Christ (see Heb. 4).
    • Resurrection from the dead (Acts 26:6-8).
  • A place in the new heavens and the new earth (Rev. 21:1-7), where God dwells with his people and there is no more sin, death, sickness, pain, or sadness, where we will reign with the Lord forever and ever.

A common thread running through all of this is that the treasure we are inheriting is God himself.  Our inheritance is Jesus.  We get God!  And God gets us.  Repeatedly throughout the Bible, God refers to his people as his heritage, or his inheritance.  In Psalm 2:8, the Father says to the Son, “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage.”  Deuteronomy 32:9 says, “But the Lord’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage.”  Examples like this could be multiplied.  The reality is that because of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, we are reconciled to God, and we belong to him just as he belongs to us.  We are his treasured possession, and he is our God.  We have a claim on him.  Amazing!  We have a claim on the infinite, eternal, holy God of the universe.  We have a legitimate share in him!  No one can snatch us out of his hand, and no one and nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ.  Talk about security!

There is a Will in heaven that says we have an imperishable inheritance, and that inheritance is Christ.  Our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, and we have an eternity in his presence coming to us, which belongs to us by right, because we are united to Christ in faith.  Praise God, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light (Col. 1:12)!